I don't mean to freak you out and made you think of Christmas before you're ready, but I've always found that the more thoughtful I can be about it ahead of time, the more meaningful it is come Advent and Christmas Day itself. Bear with me, please. I need your help.
For the first time in our married lives (of 14 years), we will be spending Christmas at home. During those first 13 years, getting away to spend the holidays with both our families who live out of state (but in the same state) was easy.
The first 6 years we were married, it was a cinch to take off the time we wanted over Christmas- usually about a week. My job was flexible and Jamey's workplace almost shut down over the holidays. Then, the past four years came along with Jamey back in school. Things got even cushier time-off-wise because he was on a university schedule and got a whole month off from mid-Decmeber to mid-January each year. We could pack the kids up and go mooch off relatives for as long as we'd like. I sure hope they didn't see it as mooching, though.
Now, we're back in the real world. And, actually, working at a hospital may make things a little more real because it never closes down. Not for weekends, holidays, not even during the night. We've grown used to his varied schedule pretty well. His shifts change daily, so we each take a look at the calendar each night to see what the next day will bring. We've gotten used to it and we're over-the-moon thankful to God that he even has a job, that it's in a hospital (his first choice) and that we didn't have to move to take it.
Back to the holidays. On one hand, I'm kind of excited to have Christmas at home with my little family. In the past, our kids have always opened their presents three or four days before Christmas, before we started traveling. This year, they'll be able to wake up in the morning and run downstairs to open their gifts, spend most of the day in the PJs and we'll all be together, just us.
But. Knowing myself, I also know that when the actual day comes, I will think of our families all gathered together without us and it will make me a little sad. What I hope to do is create some special little traditions (this is bound to happen in some future years as well), that will help us all see being home for Christmas as really special, too.
I've had a few ideas so far.
One, we'll get to go to Christmas Eve service at a church. When we're out of town, there this didn't always fit in to the family plans, but I think it's such an important reminder of why we're celebrating in the first place. It's hard enough for adults to keep that front and center during the holidays. For kids, it's even harder with all those presents distracting them.
Idea two came from a commenter a little while back (I'm so sorry, I don't remember your name) who mentioned that they bake Christmas cookies leading up to Christmas, but don't eat any until Christmas day and then let everyone eat to their hearts content. I ran this idea past the kids and they loved it, so this one we're going to try.
The other simple thought I had was to go all out and splurge on fruit. We don't buy fruit out of season, so this would be a very special treat for all of us- a big plate pineapple, grapes, Sam even asked for Kiwi. He must have been two the last time he had kiwi, but he remembers it evidently.
We also plan on checking in with neighbors to see who we can invite to a Christmas dinner who may not have plans for one.
Even with these ideas, I would love your help. What traditions does your family keep that makes your Christmas day special that I might also glean from? I'd love to hear.